History of the Huguenots
In France, the Protestant Reformation began during the 16th century. French citizens, disgruntled with the political domination of the Catholic church and desiring a more democratic religious affiliation, were greatly influenced by the writings of the German monk Martin Luther and later by the ideas of John Calvin, a French theologian.
In defiance of Catholicism and the monarchy, the French dissenters began holding meetings in secret. The exact origin of the name "Huguenot" is unknown. It appears to be a combination of the Flemish and German word. Protestants who met to study the Bible in secret were called Huis Genooten, or "house fellows." They were also referred to as Eid Genossen, or "oath fellows" meaning persons bound by an oath.
Persecution of the Huguenots by the Catholic church was extreme and unrelenting. In 1535, an edict was published which ordered the extermination of the Protestant heretics. During the following 63 years, Huguenots were systematically tortured and executed. A group of 1500 refugees, one of whom was John Calvin, fled the persecution and established the French Protestant Church in Strasbourg.
On April 30,1598, King Henry IV of France, issued the Edict of Nantes, granting the Huguenots religious and political freedom. The edict was later revoked under the rule of King Louis XIV. Deprived of civil and religious liberty, the Huguenots began leaving France by the thousands. They settled in Germany, Switzerland, Belgium, Holland, Britain and the religiously tolerant new American Colonies. Many Huguenots found their way to Charleston, South Carolina. They built plantations, established Churches, and became highly successful in the rural industries of rice, indigo, cotton and silk.
The Huguenot Cross
The cross, basically a Maltese Cross with an attached dove, symbolizes equality and the sacrifice of Christ on the cross.
The Maltese Cross has four arms of equal length with each arm becoming broader as it leaves the center. The outer edge is indented in the shape of a V, making eight points at the tips which are symbols of the eight Beatitudes. Fleurs de lis occupy the spaces between the arms, and the four open spaces form four hearts, the symbol of loyalty. The dove decends from the lowest arm, the symbol of the Saint Esprit (Holy Spirit), guide and counselor of the Church.
The Huguenot Cross can be purchased from The Huguenot Society of South Carolina.